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I just finished analyzing some long-term crop yield data. I should probably publish it somewhere, but that'll take forever and require more writing and there's a solid chance I'll never get around to it. So I'm just going to drop all the plots right here. THREAD:
First I want to acknowledge all the data came from USDA-NASS (quickstats.nass.usda.gov). It is a very rich data source and we should keep them well-funded.
Crop yield trends in the U.S. since 1960.
* Y-axis is yield, in whatever units USDA records them in (either bushels/acre, pounds/acre, or tons/acre).
* each point is the crop yield from one state, darker points = more acres in that state.
* Red line is the national yield trend
There's some pretty impressive increases going on in some crops. And others, not so much. I was curious about whether overall yields are increasing because acres were moving to states where yield potential is higher. So I looked at each crop individually, by state...
I'm not going to provide much narrative with this series of plots - but there are some really cool stories here that perhaps some of my agronomically-inclined tweeps are welcome to weigh in on. Without further ado:
(Oh, one more thing - in these next plots, the number of acres grown is represented by the size of the point; big circles mean more acres. The state with the most acres over the last 10 years is always presented first, left to right, top to bottom.)
Barley. Montana produces the most acres, but Colorado produces the highest yields.
Dry edible beans. One of the crops I work with, and Wyoming is among the top yielding states (YAY!). A very wide range of yield trends here, from increasing, flat, and even a few decreasing.
Canola. North Dakota is KING. Neighboring Montana and Minnesota are the only other two states with substantial production.
Can't discuss US agriculture without corn (maize). Yields are increasing everywhere except Colorado and Kansas. No clue what's going on in those two states...
Cotton. Not sure why, but I was kind of surprised to learn that Texas had the highest acreage, and California had the highest yield. I knew both states were cotton producers, but didn't think they'd be topping those lists.
Alfalfa. Oof... I've seen the national-level data suggesting the recent yield plateau/decline, but it somehow seems more depressing when you see the same trend in almost every alfalfa producing state.
Lentils. I know almost nothing about lentil production...
Oats. We used to grow a lot more oats in the US. Acres have decreased everywhere, but yields are still going up in the Dakotas.
Peanuts. Holy cow! Peanut growers and breeders should be proud. I'm really curious about that 'pause' in yield increases between 1980 to 2000, though.
Rice. Solid work, rice people.
Rye. Another crop that we don't grow much of anymore. Based on the yield data, though, North Dakota should grow more. Just don't sell it to breweries.
Rye beers are GROSS. Don't @ me.
Grain sorghum. Or for my friends in Kansas "milo". A mixed bag when it comes to yield trends here.
Soybeans. The 'I-states' (sorry Idaho, not you) have the highest yields and acres, with Nebraska also in the mix. But check out the increase in acres in North Dakota!
Sugar beets. You all know I love sugar beets. And they've had a pretty nice run over the last 10 to 15 years.
Sugarcane. AKA the 'other' sugar crop. Hawaii has the best yields, but due to economics of production, the acreage there has declined.
Sunflower. Come on, Colorado. Get it together. Be more like the Dakotas.
Tobacco. I suspect investment in tobacco isn't what it used to be. Yields are pretty flat. Except in Pennsylvania??
Spring wheat. Definitely some room for improvement, it looks like.
Winter wheat. States with the most production (acres) don't have the best production (yield). These tend to be pretty low-input systems. They spend a lot more on winter wheat in Washington and Idaho, and the yields show it.
That's it! I started this analysis in 2018, then got side-tracked. This weekend, I learned how to use a new R package (purrr) that allowed me to create all these plots with <40 lines of code. What would have taken me a very long time in 2018, I did in less than an hour. #rstats
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